Leg; 827 miles / 1,331 km
Total; 6,047 miles / 9,732 km
(Check out our Instagram page for photos of this leg and regular pictorial updates)
When we arrived at San Diego we headed straight to Ocean Beach, where Ties had stayed at a hostel on a previous trip. Within minutes of arriving we were chatting to a friendly couple Tyler and Kaci, who invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them. After a relaxing day in the city we headed to Lakeside where Tyler picked us up and drove us up the mountain to his family home in Ramona. We had an incredible day with four generations of his family. We tried many new foods, including sweet potato topped with marshmallows, and green bean casserole with crispy potato topping.
Tyler sent us off the next day with a belly full of bacon, eggs and pecan pie. We thought we’d skipped the worst of the hills, but we had four hours of climbing up to the charming town of Julian, before an awesome descent down a winding James Bond road to the Anza Borrega desert. We were blown away by the beauty of the desert. Having never been in the desert, we couldn’t believe how stunning a landscape of sand, cacti and tumbleweed could be!
The next day we had to share the road with thousands of adrenaline junkies in dune buggies, quads, motocross bikes and flying desert vehicles. We had no idea we’d be going through a giant 85,000 acre All Terrain Vehicle playground! Eventually we got to the Salton Sea, a bizarre desert sea 237 feet below sea level. We cycled around the perimeter till we arrived at Slab City. We’d seen Slab City featured in the Christopher McCandless film Into the Wild, and Vice magazine. We expected to visit a hippy community of people who wanted to live off the grid, but were shocked by how filthy it was and the ‘aggressiveness’ of the ‘residents’. We reluctantly spent the night there – our first wild camping of the whole trip – and left very early the next morning.
We ended the next day deep in the Imperial sand dunes, out of water and keen for a shower! Running out of daylight, we had no choice but to wild camp again next to some outhouses. We weren’t sure if we could camp there and got nervous when a police car turned up and drove right up to our tent. We spent ten restless minutes listening to the officer as he seemed to be verifying coordinates over his radio. This made us more nervous, as there was a state prison not too far and we thought we could be sleeping in the last known location of an escaped convict!
We had arranged to stay with a Warm Showers the next night but we hit some strong winds and had to cut the day short. We found what looked like an abandoned campground in Palo Verde and spent our third night in a row wild camping. We were well hidden but we still got a bit nervous when someone else turned up in a van, who clearly wanted the spot we’d chosen! The next day we finally made it to Blythe and were treated like royalty at Wayne’s Bait shop. After a few days in the desert, we felt very special to be given pizza and beer, and get clean again. We hung out with Wayne’s friends around a fire, one of which was the Mayor of Blythe!
Our first night in Arizona was back down to earth with a bang, as we camped by the side of the highway, as hidden as we could. We expected the next evening to be the same but we found an inexpensive looking motel in Aguila. We asked the owner if we they had a room but were told it wasn’t a motel anymore. We must have looked very disappointed because the new owner didn’t hesitate to offer us to stay in one of the empty rooms anyway and for free! There was no furniture at all, but amazingly still warm water and electricity. Luxury!
After a challenging start in Arizona, we were lucky enough to experience incredible hospitality with Warm Showers hosts for the next few hundred miles. We could, and will (!), fill a book with all the incredible stories we have from the people we met in Arizona. We’ve been treated to endless meals, been plied with beer, stayed in a 31ft RV and been given invaluable advice! Arizona surprised us by the variety of it’s desert landscape and hospitality of its incredible residents. We didn’t think we’d get halfway thinking Arizona was our favourite state so far, but it is! Were a bit nervous about entering the Deep South, but feeling inspired by the amazing experiences of the Southern Tier so far.